October 17, 2011
British beekeepers have been placed on red alert by a government warning that the UK is about to be invaded by the Asian hornet – a species whose favourite food is the honey bee. The aggressive hornet – Vespa velutina nigrithorax – hunts bees to deadly effect. Just a handful of the dark-bodied, yellow-legged hornets can destroy a bee colony in two hours.
They have already spread across France and into Spain, and are “highly likely” to reach Britain, according to the Non-Native Species Secretariat.
The Asian hornet, which can grow to 3cm long, was introduced to France in 2004, in a shipment of pots imported from China. It has swiftly adapted to the European climate. A single colony can produce more than 15,000 hornets. Earlier this month there were sightings in Belgium.